Imagine this -- it is forty years ago (that would be 1973, if you're not good at math) and you are sitting down at your Smith-Corona manual typewriter to try your hand at writing science fiction. Your idea: a "Mad Max"-style dystopian vision of America in the near future. You pick the year 2013, and your write up a plot summary, starting out something like this:

In the year 2013, America has lost its dominance as the world's great manufacturing power. And so the great cities of the Heartland have gone to seed -- entire blocks are re-taken by prairie grass, weeds growing where once vibrant factories is stood. The epicenter of rot and decay  is Detroit, once the auto capital of the world, now de-industrialized and overrun by murder and political corruption.

In this grim vacuum, America is now run by a handful of billionaire oligarchs who've bought the political system, lock stock and barrel. The two most brazen of the lot are brothers, oilmen who've spent a chunk of their fortune convincing the public that their fossil fuels aren't destroying the planet, even as 97 percent of science says  otherwise. Indeed, now these evil billionaires are pulling off one of their most outlandish capers yet, creating a massive three-story high pile of dirty, toxic dust, right on the riverbanks of forgotten, powerless Detroit.

In 1973, would someone have dared publish such an outlandish fantasy?...also known as the reality that the was printed on the front page of the New York Times on May 18, 2013, the story of the Koch brothers, their company Koch Carbon, and the ginormous pile of petroleum coke (no relation) that now sits precariously next to the Detroit River, and which may someday leave on a slow boat to China, so it can be burned off as a greenhouse gas to help destroy the Earth.

Is this a great planet, or what?